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New age of teaching

Dr Wahab Ali
Monday, April 17, 2017

Teaching methodology comprises a number of principles such as teaching philosophy, curriculum, pedagogy and classroom management strategies.

Foremost, the teaching philosophy determines the teaching approach that will be implemented by the teacher.

For example, constructivism is a student-oriented philosophy that emphasises hands-on learning and actively participating in lessons.

Likewise, a teacher who has a constructivist philosophy believes that students should construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through a relevant curriculum.

A rigorous and relevant curriculum is one that is cognitively demanding and challenging to students as they apply the essential concepts and skills to real world, complex and open-ended situations.

Our nation's workforce continues to evolve in a workplace transformed by new ideas, products, processes and services that have a direct impact on the content.

The curriculum content should not just be knowledge-based but involve particular intellectual challenges and skills students will need to take on the challenges and opportunities that we cannot yet even imagine now.

In essence, quality education in the contemporary world is about developing pedagogies and practices for effective learning and teaching so that our students are ready to engage in the real world in a creative, productive and positive manner.

Key in our classroom is the building of critical thinkers who are able to critique the answers and question their own answers, rather than recite the answers when prompted.

Pedagogy needs to be supported by effective classroom management strategies.

While there is no magic elixir that will confer skills in this area of professional responsibility, teachers try to create a safe and ideal learning environment for the students.

Classroom management involves more than just discipline and rules as it encompasses a myriad of tasks that take place in the classroom each day. Subsequently, the teaching philosophy, curriculum, pedagogy and classroom management strategies collectively contribute towards effective teaching methodology that in turn leads to meaningful lifelong learning.

As we move to transform the lives of our students, it must be established that our students have changed radically from that of the past.

Education systems worldwide are adjusting and invigorating their curriculum to reflect the needs and aspirations of today's students, who are able to think and process information differently from their predecessors.

This is because these students have gone through a digital upbringing. These days even small babies get to play with mobile phones as toys.

So at the tender age of one or two years, they get the feel of an incoming call and the vibrations.

These different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures and affects different thinking patterns in children.

Behavioural and social theorists confirm that physical environment and language do have impact on brain development.

These students are known as the digital natives as they are born during the digital era and are all "native speakers" of the digital language of computers, video games and the internet.

Subsequently, teaching methodologies implemented in schools need to consider these changes.

Our students need to be taught differently as they are able to process and do multitasking with ease.

They are able to access information quickly from multiple sources and have shorter attention spans for old ways of learning.

This has implications for teachers who are digital immigrants as they need to revisit their teaching philosophies so that they are able to engage the students in meaningful learning and teaching experiences.

The new teachers joining the taskforce are digital natives themselves and they need to be supported so that they are able to digitalise their teaching wherever possible.

These days there are many good educational applications and softwares that can complement the teaching methodology making learning a motivational and an enjoyable exercise.

The curriculum is no longer content-based textbook-driven or fragmented, but is thematic, outcome based, project-based and integrated.

Knowledge is no longer memorisation of facts and figures, but is constructed through research and application, and connected to previous knowledge and experiences.

All these innovations and changes have implications for the selection of appropriate teaching methodologies.

Remarkable progress has been made in education globally since 2000, when the six Education for All (EFA) goals and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established.

As we now strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, that is to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" we need to reflect on our teaching methodologies so that our teaching philosophies, pedagogies and management styles are in acquiescence with the needs and demands of the digital natives.

In the current educational and digital revolution, knowledge is viewed as power, and education empowers.

It is an indispensable part of the growth equation in creating knowledge based developments that in turn will propel innovations and entrepreneurships towards creating a knowledge society.

* Dr Wahab Ali is the dean of the school of humanities and arts at the University of Fiji. Views and opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect the position of his employer or this newspaper.

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